Dick Advocaat close to justifying ‘risk’ Sunderland took on him

'The club took a risk in appointing me so hopefully we will do the job properly' said Dick Advocaat on Saturday as Sunderland neared relegation escape.

Dick Advocaat instructs his side during their Premier League win against Everton on Saturday. Jason Cairnduff / Reuters / Action Images / May 9, 2015
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Dick Advocaat believes he is on course to repay the risk taken by Sunderland in appointing him as their manager by leading the club to Premier League survival.

The former Netherlands national team manager has overseen a remarkable recovery by the north-east club, including a stunning 2-0 victory away to Everton on Sunday which vastly improved their hopes of staying in England’s top division.

It is all a far cry from the disastrous reign of his predecessor Gus Poyet, who oversaw a dramatic slide down the league table which left Sunderland staring relegation in the face.

But Advocaat has turned the club’s fortunes around and the manager said that, while he would rather be competing at the other end of the table, he was relishing the job.

“Yes I’m enjoying it but I still enjoying competing for titles, if you don’t mind,” he joked. “It’s different and it is always difficult when you just came into a club seven weeks ago.

“We still have work to do, we are not there yet but we are not far. We’re really close,” he added after a victory at Goodison Park that left Sunderland two points above the relegation zone with three games to play.

“The club took a risk in appointing me as well so hopefully we will do the job properly and we can be happy at the end of the season.”

Advocaat, 67, said his current post was likely to be his last role in professional football but emphasised his future has not been categorically determined, saying: “So far we didn’t discuss that.”

Sunderland’s latest win came courtesy of deflected goals, by Danny Graham and Jermain Defoe.

For Graham it was his first goal for the club in 28 games and 28 months since joining for £5 million (Dh28.4m) from Swansea City.

“The dressing room is very happy for Danny but not only for Danny, the whole dressing room is very happy, really up,” said Advocaat.

“Fourteen days ago, it was Everton 3 Manchester United 0 here; today it was 0-2 Sunderland!

“But Danny has done really well, he works hard and he’s a target man who likes the ball.

“For Defoe, as well, he is playing wide and that is not his favourite position but we are now in a situation where we have to do everything for the club to stay up,” Advocaat explained.

Defoe, he said, “is doing that in a very positive way”.

Beaten Everton manager Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, insisted he had no problem with Sylvain Distin after the veteran defender complained of his treatment by the Merseyside club in an interview in his native France.

Distin claimed Martinez had blocked a potential transfer to West Ham United in the January transfer window then omitted him from involvement with Everton’s first-team squad.

“I can understand that completely, it happens to any professional,” said Martinez. “Sylvain has been a phenomenal professional and a phenomenal servant to Everton but in football it happens,” the Spaniard added.

“You get a young man in John Stones who is under the age of 20 and who has performed in an incredible manner and struck up and effective partnership with Phil Jagielka.

“Sylvain wanted to leave in January to go to another club but it never materialised but I don’t see anything wrong with these situations. It’s a natural moment in his career.”

Despite Saturday’s defeat, Martinez has not given up hope of Everton making the Europa League next season, via a possible place from the Fair Play League.

“Absolutely, we would welcome that,” he said. “The place in the Fair Play League is still very much up in the air because there are many little aspects that can change in the next three games. But as a football club we have a lot of young players who would embrace a unique opportunity to play in Europe.”

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